thisisanexperiment. no, really. it is.

Posted in Life by thisisanexperiment on June 29, 2009

The quarterlife crisis is a term applied to the period of life immediately following the major changes of adolescence, usually ranging from the early twenties to the early thirties. The term is named by analogy with mid-life crisis.

I believe this is happening to me. Because at one point in time or another, I have thought of these questions:

“What am I supposed to be doing with my life??”

“I couldn’t imagine coming to this job everyday. What are my avenues?”

“Should I move out of my mom’s house?”

In other news…

Save Ferris
Sick days, vacation days — what’s the difference?

Hear that? Listen carefully. It’s the sound of another cubicle buddy hacking his or her lungs out and spreading disease throughout your tightly packed incubator of an office. Thanks to this jerk’s unwillingness to stay at home, you’re probably going to lose several gallons of mucus within the next week or two. And odds are, you won’t call in sick, either.

Why? Sick days are the new vacation days — especially for young people in entry-level jobs and with just five to 10 allotted days of vacation.

But wait — the absenteeism rate rose to a five-year high of 2.4 percent in 2004 and held pretty steady at 2.3 percent this year, according to a survey released this month by CCH, a publisher of human-resources information (absence rates were calculated by dividing the total number of paid unscheduled-absence hours by the total number of paid productive hours).

What’s the deal? Well, calling in sick and being sick are not mutually inclusive. In fact, two out of three employees who fail to show up for work aren’t physically ill, according to the survey. Personal illness accounts for about 35 percent of unscheduled absences. The rest are due to family issues (21 percent), personal needs (18 percent), entitlement mentality (14 percent) and stress (12 percent).

Those last three reasons are the ones twentysomethings understand best. The generation that grew up with Ferris Bueller understands that sometimes a day off is a must. U.S. companies give employees an average of just 10 vacation days a year (compared with four to five weeks, on average, in Western European countries), so there’s little legitimate time to take care of personal needs or to take a mental health day.

Employers might want to reconsider their stingy vacation allotment. Each last-minute no-show cost companies an average of $660 this year, up from $610 in 2004, according to the survey.

One of the tactics more employers are taking to cut down on unscheduled absences is PTO (paid time off) banking, which doesn’t differentiate between vacation, sick and personal days, and which doesn’t require advance notice. If you’re sick, take a day from the bank. If you feel like hitting the beach, stop by the convenient ATM.

The PTO bank is a relatively new trend in the United States, but its popularity is growing. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. companies now use some form of paid-leave bank, compared with 21 percent in 2000, according to the CCH survey.

Besides combating absenteeism, the banks can prevent presenteeism — working while sick. Seventy-seven percent of employees reported going to work while sick in a 2004 poll by ComPsych, which creates employee-assistance programs.

That’s a big problem, according to Edie Clark, spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, whose members help businesses administer PTO banks. “I’m just a huge advocate of people staying home when sick … [not doing so] just hits productivity below the waist,” she said. “I would like to see employers encouraging people to get well instead of coming in because they’re trying to save a day for vacation.”

“While the direct hit to the bottom line isn’t immediately evident with presenteeism, the hidden, indirect costs are very high,” added Tulay Turan, a CCH employee-benefits analyst. “When someone doesn’t feel well, they are simply not as productive, nor is the quality of their work as high. Then, there is the added problem of spreading illnesses to other employees who in turn either call in sick, or come in sick.”

The banks also help build trust, Clark said. When scheduling time off, “we don’t have to explain why. It’s simply there for us to use however we want,” she said. “It allows some privacy in decision-making [and] treats people like adults.”

Which is what twentysomethings want. Unless they’re coping with a traditional sick-day system and feel like taking an impromptu mental-health day, in which case employers should prepare for a childish early-morning phone call filled with fake sniffling and just the right amount of faux hoarseness.

Mental Health Day!


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